Just finished the 400 metre jog, into some push ups, a few body weight squats and finish with some sit ups, need a drink, sweating a fair bit, hands on my knees bent over gasping for air (see photo). I tell myself “it will be ok, you won’t die”. Thank God the warm up is finished.
Is this another typical CrossFit class for me? No. But this is sure how I felt when I first started CrossFit well over twelve months ago. Like a lot of us who are just on the right side of 50 for a little while longer, I had grown complacent and excepting of the poor health and fitness level I had slipped to steadily over the years. I could blame it on moving from a physical job to sitting behind a desk for the last ten or so years, I could blame it on finishing my footy playing days, I could blame it on being busy at work, getting a bit older, etc, etc, or I could just face the facts and except that I had become lazy and content, I had settled comfortably into my lethargic lifestyle.
Below is a bit about CrossFit through my eyes. We probably all see and experience CrossFit a bit differently from each other, but ultimately the goal of health, fitness and enjoying life is the same for all of us.
I’m not one for swearing in public so when you come across this, #!#% just replace it with a word that you feel suits best.
I was down at “CrossFit Wangaratta” thanks to an introduction via a friend Ian Paydon, wasn’t sure what I was in for but keen to give it a go, let’s get started………… Well #!#% me, “welcome back to life Rob” and that was only doing half a workout to start with, sure had a long way to go.
The good thing was that the coaches were very careful to judge where I was at physically and make sure I could make it back for the next class, so I could keep the momentum going (or get it underway). Steadily I started to regain some of the fitness and mobility I used to have, learning new moves with barbell, running again, doing bodyweight exercises, all along with the support and encouragement of the coaches James, De and Sally (and all the other CrossFitter’s). It was great, the coaches take real pride and personal involvement in your wellbeing and give it their best to help you on the road to achieving your goals. They each have their own strengths, methods and personalities and you will find yourself getting something from all of them.
Some CrossFitter’s take to the quiet approach, a calm response, the technical answer, others need positive feedback, some need firm encouragement and some thrive on being revved up and spurred on to push themselves further. For me, it is just having someone there to make sure I do the work, get up me when I need a bit of a push along, teach me correct technique and pull me up when my form is going bad. These guys are pretty good at sensing where you are at on the day, they seem to know when you need the extra encouragement, or when to pull you up because you are going beyond your capacity or ability, sometimes your ego may want you to do more than you can or should.
In my early days at the box, James would tell me I need to get rid of the “Old man mentality”, “you come in Rob and you have this can’t do look written all over your face, stop thinking negatively and enjoy it”. Once you get your mind working positively, everything gets that bit more rewarding (not easier to do, but easier to deal with), you start to really get into it, heaven forbid, you even start enjoying exercise again, don’t laugh, its actually possible.
Back into the WOD now and there is running on the white board, I am not going to be as bold as to call what I do “running” but never the less, out to the road, off we go, one foot in front of the other. If you have ever been down in Browning Street in Wangaratta where all this running is done, you would swear it is one of the flattest streets in town, but when I run down that road, let me guarantee you, to me this can feel like one of the steepest roads around, and what’s even worse is, when you slog your way up the hill to the turnaround point, you spin around, start to head back and all of a sudden, the return trip is just as steep, feels to me like I am “running up hill” both bloody ways.
On the run I am passed (and lapped) by a steady stream of local CrossFitters, some older than me (fit as #!#%), some half my age or younger, to be honest it doesn’t worry me at all how many people pass me (or the ones I never ever catch up to) because I am out having a go and making a change for the better, even at my current pace I am doing way more than I used to, which was zero. CrossFit is very addictive, no doubt about it, and one of the things that makes it so for me is the fact that it is, as competitive as much as it is about teamwork. Some strive to beat each other, some strive to better themselves and some strive to just make sure they complete the workout to the best of their ability. The one thing that is happening all the time though, is that you are all using each other’s energy to get the workout done, you might not even get close to keeping up with the person alongside of you, but them working hard keeps you going as well, and don’t think it just one way traffic, you are helping them also, even at my pace. It doesn’t matter where you finish, because as soon as you come through the door to attend the workout for the day you’ve had a little victory right there. The one thing you can count on is, that no matter where you are in the field, everyone there will be supporting you throughout.
Everyone is going to have their favourite exercise and for me the real joy of CrossFit is when lifting weights is on the whiteboard, I’m not sure what it is but I just absolutely love it. I haven’t done much of this in the past, especially the Olympic lifts, so it is all relatively new to me but it doesn’t take long to work out that lifting weights just makes you feel great, both physically and mentally, I can’t get enough of it. Part of the enjoyment also for me also is when we do the strength component of the session, you generally get to do work with a partner, this could mean someone my age or someone 30 years younger, male or female, it doesn’t matter who it is, you support, encourage and help each other, this mixed with some good conversation, some shit stirring and trying to lift or squat heavy stuff (there is also the getting fit and healthy bit mixed in there somewhere).
The other thing I will say about CrossFit is that when you have a few more years under your belt and perhaps a few restrictions or mobility issues, perhaps due to old work or sporting injuries, maybe from other things that have occurred during your life, you have to learn to give these restrictions due respect, you have to work out where your limitations are, listen to what your body is telling you, if it takes longer for you to warm up than the others (like me), so be it, if it prevents injury or increases mobility you just have do it. You have to make sure speak up, let the coaches know you can’t do something for a specific reason, let me assure you they will have an alternative exercise for you, just as challenging but within your mobility range (P.S slow running is not an injury, you still have to do it). There is always a risk to any form of physical activity, yes you may get injured if you don’t warm up properly (done that), you may injure yourself if you don’t follow the coaches instructions (done that too). You may just unfortunately strain a muscle or tear something, but this is part of putting yourself out there and joining in that thing called “Living”. You can get hurt doing most things, I played footy and certainly got injured doing that, went to work, got the odd cut and bruise there, went out Saturday nights, got hurt at that too (but I blame some dodgy drinks). I do know now though you need to have a go at something, it doesn’t have to be CrossFit if that’s not what you’re into, any form of exercise is great, “but you do have to have a go”, unfortunately I forgot this for a while and it makes the road back a bit harder.
James and I had a conversation about aims, goals, etc, back when I started, the conversation went something like “I think you will be able to get down to around 80 kilos eventually Rob.” My initial thoughts were “What planet is this bloke from.” Now as it turns out, James was fair dinkum (and correct) about the long term goal of 80 kilos, after learning how to push myself hard again and tackling things with a positive attitude, I now know, and feel that the initial goals James discussed are achievable, BUT only if I put in the effort, it all comes back to me in the end and this is how it has to be, others can’t do it for you, they can encourage, help and support you but you have to do the actual work yourself.
I will say my weight loss has been at a slow pace compared to some others but I am very happy with my results to date, extremely happy actually, but not satisfied by a long way , I have got a fair way to go and will take time. The bottom line is that James told me initially, that getting back to health and fitness for me will be 80% good clean eating (don’t like using the word diet) and 20% exercise, If I am honest with myself, I can’t say I have managed a consistent level at either of these as yet but it is about finding the balance, what does and doesn’t work for you, a level that you can stick with for the rest of your life, are there hurdles along the way, “shit yeah,” but nothing you can’t get over or work out a solution to.
The one area I had definitely under estimated was the mental challenge that CrossFit would give me, it’s a good challenge, don’t get me wrong, but a challenge none the less. Let’s face it getting yourself to exercise can be very tough, if it wasn’t then everybody would be fit, healthy and in great shape, and generally we are not. There are plenty of people who love to exercise, but unfortunately the majority are more like myself and have to force it to be a priority. CrossFit is making exercise something I want to do, rather than have to do. Some days though you just talk yourself out of it with your own negative thoughts, don’t want to go, too warm in bed, too comfy on the couch, busy at work, I can’t be bothered, etc, how long is the list. Then when you do go, sometimes you mentally defeat yourself before you start, it’s too hot, too cold, too hard, too sore this, too sore that, but if I face the facts, by not even taking on, or accepting that metal challenge in the first place for the last ten years and sitting on my backside, is what got me to the poor physical condition I was in before taking up CrossFit. This is why I say it is a good mental challenge, but a challenge none the less. It’s a bit like burpees I have found that once you except that they just have to be done, then they’re not so bad, just hard going for a while.
Now I am not a great one for social media with zero Facebook friends on my account, not real big on telephone conversation either, but I do enjoy getting out and talking face to face with real people and that’s what you get at “CrossFit Wangaratta”, going to the Box is about more than just going to exercise. The hardest thing you are going to have to contend with is remembering the names of all the new friends you will meet. I am not worried what side of 50 I am on, as long as I keep “running up hill”, although I now know it will get a little flatter each time I tackle it. I still have my hands on my knees gasping for air at the end of each and every WOD, but I know it takes a lot, lot more exercise to wear me out now.
As the years add up, the warm ups may have to get a little longer and there may have to be more focus on mobility as I move down the track, but either way I hope to be going to “CrossFit Wangaratta” for a many years to come.
(Note: Rob sent me this blog in response to my blog, “Crossfit and aging: the value is in the trying.”)